Dead Can Dance - Hammersmith Apollo, London - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Dead Can Dance - Hammersmith Apollo, London

by charles filtness Rating: Release Date:

Tonight is the second of two sold out shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. With a seating capacity of around 3500 that's no easy feat for a band that many may be unaware of but illustrates the enduring appeal to those who know. 

This is the start of a European tour that sees them playing a number of venues over the coming months and is billed as a retrospective of their work from 1980-2019.  Last year’s new album Dionysus was their first since 2012's surprise come-back. These are also the first live shows since 2013.  Nothing lasts forever, uncertainty as to the likelihood of further releases or live performances has been the subject of some speculation in recent years.  Whether this tour will perhaps transpire to be a farewell to their many fans may remain to be seen.

During the 1980s and 1990s Dead Can Dance along with others like Cocteau Twins were significant in helping to establishing 4AD records as one of the most forward thinking and perhaps esoteric indie labels of the time.  Though the music they made evolved over time from its Gothic beginning, with Dead Can Dance the attraction was most often the combination of less familiar sounds and styles, along with the disparate vocals of the two continuing members and former couple Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry.  They made and continue to make music that is unique with influences as diverse as medieval religious chants, eastern classical, African tribal drumming and much beyond.

Tonight’s show is a masterclass in performance and sonic perfectionism, the duo are joined by a 6 piece backing band that play an array of instruments and percussion both familiar and more exotic looking.  Though interaction with the audience is fairly minimal they are on wonderful form, Lisa in particular seems to revel in the reaction from the crowd.  I'm not aware of any throat issues Brendan has been having recently although apparently a song is missing from tonight's set for that reason. In spite of this his performance is spectacular; his vocal is still richly tonal, incredibly powerful.   Lisa's is more idiosyncratic; operatic, but still hugely moving.

They play an expansive set that delights the crowd over the course of nearly 2 hours. Many songs are met with rapturous applause,   ‘Avatar’ is an early highlight; for me Lisa's vocals are best when accompanied by instrumentation of more complexity. Brendan less so, his performance of ‘Severance’ is stunning, similarly the cover of the Tim Buckley Song 'Song To The Siren' is a delight. It’s a wonderful experience to see this cult band in such a splendid venue. A rare opportunity and very much enjoyed.

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